English School of Kalba (ESK) is an all-through Cambridge International curriculum school. ESK blends a British curriculum approach with the beliefs and values of Islam.
The story so far . . .
Established in 2002, English School of Kalba (ESK) is located in the Kalba area of Sharjah, near the border with Oman. ESK strives “to provide a safe and intellectually challenging environment that will empower students to become innovative thinkers, creative problem solvers and inspired learners prepared to thrive in the twenty-first century”.
ESK’s vision is about preparing students “for a productive life in a dynamic world [sic] to ensure sustainable development for the UAE society”, and the school aims to do so by producing students with two core tenets in mind:
The core values at the heart of ESK students include: Citizenship and Responsibility; Islamic Values and Principles; Discipline and Transparency; Participation and Accountability; Equality and Justice; and Technology, Science, and Innovation.
In order to develop these values, ESK focuses much of its attention on how its students can affect their wider community in a positive way. ESK encourages a strong sense on national identity and social responsibility, and fosters the Islamic values of dialogue, tolerance, moderation, peace and generosity. ESK students are taught to utilise conflict resolution and an attitude of peace, in order to uphold what the school deems are the essential virtues of respect, discipline, integrity, sportsmanship, and accountability.
ESK believes that this cannot be achieved without teachers who “actively strive to encourage children’s natural curiosity and love of learning” and who “take great care to support each child’s social and emotional growth”. To this end, students are taught in vibrant, student-centred environments, using a combination of inquiry-based approaches and direct teaching.
ESK’s school website even gives prospective students and parents an idea of what it believes an effective teacher can be expected to do:
And the school doesn’t just have high standards for its teachers, but for its students as well. ESK’s website provides a similar outline of what it expects from successful students:
ESK is certainly a school that strives to push its students beyond just academics, and readily states that:
“High standards and expectations for each student in regard to academic performance, co-curricular participation, and responsible citizenship are the foundation of our school.”
But instead of just relying on teachers to shape their students, ESK works in conjunction with parents and the wider community in all aspects of school life, encouraging parents to be active participants and to consider themselves welcome to be part of family events and class activities. To facilitate this, ESK has a Parents Council, which operates four main committees: Education and Student Affairs; Social; Health Education and Environmental Protection; and Activities and Programs.
Unusually for schools in the UAE, ESK offers a very detailed explanation of its child protection policy on the website; most schools will mention e-safety, for example, but ESK’s website goes into comprehensive detail about their protection policies in areas including abuse (be it physical, emotional, sexual, or neglect), bullying, mental health, substance use, and gender-based violence.
ESK centres its protection policy around four main elements (Prevention, Protection, Reconsideration, and Support), and even gives a guide for how to treat suspected abuse cases, the Dos and Don’ts of how to speak to a child about these matters, and the steps that the school will take to see such an issue addressed and resolved.
It’s refreshing to see a UAE school openly discussing such matters, which are often considered taboo, and while there is no parent feedback or evidence of cases being handled by the school, it will certainly comfort parents to know such extensive plans are in place and available for review. The impression from the school’s website is certainly one of a school that strives not just for academic excellence, but for a holistic, safe, nurturing environment for every student.
ESK is a Cambridge International curriculum school, which offers both Cambridge Primary and Cambridge Secondary, as well as IGCSEs and AS-Levels. ESK also offers the required Ministry of Education subjects: Arabic Language, Arabic Social Studies, and Islamic Studies (for Muslim students only).
ESK believes that the Cambridge International curriculum helps to promote ‘go-for-it’ attitudes towards learning; enables students to develop their knowledge, understanding, and skills; helps them become independent thinkers and questioners who are determined to succeed; and fosters a lifelong love of learning.
At its heart, ESK’s curriculum wants students to “enjoy coming to school and embrace new challenges and possibilities”.
The school website does not mention exactly what curriculum it uses in the Kindergarten (many Sharjah schools use the Early Years Foundation Stage, for example), so it’s possible that ESK has a bespoke Kindergarten curriculum. The school does note that children “come to Kindergarten with many different skills and talents and at many different levels of readiness. For this reason, the Kindergarten program begins at a slow pace to ensure that all students ease in to the school year at their own comfort level”.
At its core, ESK’s Kindergarten programme seeks to create a ‘home-like’ environment where children can feel secure and comfortable, and “a quality learning environment based on fun activities, ‘hands-on’ experiences in British style surroundings, and dedicated and enthusiastic teaching staff”.
After the completion of the Kindergarten programme, students move on to ESK Primary:
“a vibrant and student-centered [sic] learning environment, where the focus is on developing our students as all-rounders. From the emphasis on high expectations and academic excellence to learning through a values-based curriculum to happy playtimes, ESK students are nurtured holistically”.
ESK Primary uses the Cambridge Primary curriculum, which focuses on the key areas of Mathematics, Science, and English. ESK’s “bespoke Literacy curriculum underpins the language development leading to cross-curricular links and raising standards via Scientific and Mathematical Literacy, in addition to enhanced learning of the English language”.
While the school website does not mention any other available subjects at this stage, Arabic Language, Arabic Social Studies, and Islamic Studies (for Muslim Students) will certainly be part of the timetable. And the website does mention that students at this stage work towards thematic Maths, Science, and integrated Language exhibitions, alongside Spelling Bee competitions and football tournaments. It seems that this “focus on excellence and high aspirations” is nurtured through competitions and extra-curricular activities, as well as regular classes.
ESK states that its secondary school “provides a seamless progression from Cambridge Primary to KS3, KS4 and KS5” by developing learners’ skills and confidence in the core subjects of English, Mathematics, and Science, while adding breadth and cross-curricular perspectives.
“Students are assessed at the end of Year 11 by the IGCSE exams conducted by CIE, UK and at the end of Year 12 by the Advanced Subsidiary Exams by CIE and Pearson Edexcel, UK.”
ESK’s approach seems very integrated, asking students to engage with a variety of subjects and make connections between them, rather than studying them in isolation. The school works with its students to provide IGCSE and AS-Level subjects which will support student aspirations and immediate plans for tertiary or professional studies, by selecting subjects which teach the following skills:
Unfortunately, the school’s website does not give any idea as to exactly what optional subjects it offers to its IGCSE and AS-Level students.
The school website similarly gives little information about what extra-curricular activities are available to students, to facilitate their holistic education. However, images suggest that the school holds a number of annual celebrations, such as National Day and Flag Day; runs events such as Sports Days and Exhibitions; and offers school trips to places like the Kalba Bird of Prey Centre.
While the ESK website provides detailed information about protection policies, there is no mention of Special Educational Needs (SEN) provisions or programmes for gifted students. We would expect a school with such detailed child support plans to provide extra provisions for in-need students, but it seems that parents will need to contact the school directly for more information.
Like most schools in Sharjah, there is no public record of academic achievement at ESK available.
Unlike schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Sharjah schools have not participated in regulatory inspections on a regular basis; while there were a few instances of inspections being undertaken by the Ministry of Education, schools did not generally publish the outcomes. With the initiation of SPEA (Sharjah Private Education Authority), the intention is that schools will be inspected using the common framework already in place in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
However, SPEA has decided to seek a collaborative approach with the schools for this process, and although we understand that initial inspections did take place prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, results of these inspections have not been published.
As a result of the pandemic, Sharjah schools have participated in Distance Learning Evaluations, implemented by the Ministry of Education throughout the UAE (these results have been published). In its most recent Distance Learning Review Report (2020), ESK’s implementation of distance learning was rated as Developed.
Inspectors noted a number of positive features, including student attendance, participation, and behaviour.
Inspectors felt that student benefitted “from a range of learning opportunities to allow them to maintain momentum with their learning and have the necessary resources to access their studies”. Inspectors were particularly impressed with the fact that the school has a “a dedicated wellbeing team who actively supports students with distance learning and ensures that they are aware of who to contact if they do not feel safe whilst working online”.
In terms of curriculum progression, inspectors were confident that students were “provided with clear learning outcomes to allow them to relate to the tasks and activities being undertaken in enhancing their learning”. Similarly, they felt that teachers’ planning of lessons “ensured that assessment opportunities including peer assessment can be conducted within live lessons”, and that flexible deadlines for home and assignments ensured that home circumstances were taken in consideration.
Finally, the review commended the detailed and responsive short- and long-term plans produced by the school. These plans were found to consider different scenarios, such as the potential continuation of distance learning, and inspectors were confident that the school had sufficient resources to support this, all of which were being effectively managed.
The only area that inspectors didn’t rate as Developed was the Communication and Engagement theme (it was instead rated as Partially Developed).
To rectify this, inspectors suggested more communication with parents, “to provide them with appropriate guidance and information to enable them to support the distance learning provision”, and that the school facilitate access to parent support networks.
If you would like to read the full inspection report – which we strongly advise you to do in order to understand the reasons behind the ratings – you will find it here.
The ESK campus is home to a number of large, sandy-coloured buildings, while the corridors and classrooms inside are bright and vibrant. Facilities at the school include ICT and Science Labs, interactive whiteboards, shaded outdoor fields and play areas (including an outdoor stage), and a prayer room. There is also a “well-equipped clinic in the school with a part-time MOH licensed physician [and] three full-time MOH registered nurses”.
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ESK’s school fees range from AED 11,900 for Kindergarten through to AED 21,000 for Year 12 students. School fees include tuition and book fees (AED 1,000, except for Year 11, where book fees are AED 2,000).
Uniform fees are not included; uniforms can be bought in individual sets (AED 200 for a normal uniform and AED 150 for a PE set), or in one full set (which includes 2 normal sets and 1 PE set, priced at AED 350).
Transportation is available, although only for FS2 to Year 7 students. The school bus operates from the Fujairah area (AED 2,700) and the Kalba area (AED 2,300).
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